Connect with us

Science

Mud volcanoes may spew on Mars, scientists say | Space

Published

on

Mud volcanoes may spew on Mars, scientists say | Space_5ec468f0594a2.jpeg

Mars may sport two different types of volcanoes, just like Earth.

The Red Planet has had plenty of “normal” lava-spewing volcanoes, one of which created the biggest mountain in the solar system: the 16-mile-high (25 kilometers) monster Olympus Mons. But some Mars volcanoes may erupt with mud rather than molten rock, a new study suggests.

Mars’ northern hemisphere is dotted with tens of thousands of conical hills, some of which are topped with small craters. Some researchers have postulated that these features were created by mud volcanoes, but this hypothesis has been hard to assess. Scientists just don’t know enough about how mud moves on the Red Planet, which is very cold and has an atmospheric pressure 150 times lower than that of Earth.

Related: Mars volcano views revealed by spacecraft (photos)

That’s where the new study comes in. Researchers sent mud flowing down a sandy slope in a laboratory chamber that mimicked Mars conditions (except the Red Planet’s gravity, which is just 40% as strong as Earth’s). 

The results were surprising, study team members said.

“Under the low atmospheric pressure of Mars, the mud flows behave in much the same way as ‘pāhoehoe,’ or ‘ropy,’ lava, which is familiar from large volcanoes on Hawaii and Iceland,” lead author Petr Brož, of the Czech Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

“Our experiments show that even a process as apparently simple as the flow of mud — something that many of us have experienced for ourselves since we were children — would be very different on Mars,” Brož said. 

The pāhoehoe-like behavior is driven largely by Mars’ low pressure, which cannot support the existence of liquid surface water for long. As the water evaporates, it absorbs heat and cools the remaining mud. The mud freezes from the outside in, forming a crust around a gooey center, study team members. The unfrozen mud on the interior can break through the crust, forming a new lobe.

The new results don’t conclusively demonstrate that Mars’ northern hills are mud volcanoes. But they do bolster that interpretation, showing that such geological activity is possible on the Red Planet, study team members said.

Active mud volcanoes on Earth.

Active mud volcanoes on Earth. (Image credit: CAS/Petr Brož CC BY-SA 4.0)

And this information should be kept in mind when trying to understand geological features on worlds beyond Earth, they added.

“Once again, it turns out that different physical conditions must always be taken into account when looking at apparently simple surface features on other planets,” study co-author Ernst Hauber, of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, said in the same statement. (DLR is the German acronym for the German Aerospace Center.) “We now know that we need to consider both mud and lava when analyzing certain flow phenomena.”

Mud volcanoes could potentially be active today on Mars, as they are on Earth. After all, the Red Planet is thought to harbor large reservoirs of subsurface water, including, perhaps, a giant lake beneath its south pole.

The new study was published online today (May 18) in the journal Nature Geoscience

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Science

Attention Required! | Cloudflare

Published

on

By

What can I do to prevent this in the future?

If you are on a personal connection, like at home, you can run an anti-virus scan on your device to make sure it is not infected with malware.

If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices.

Continue Reading

Science

How to see Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in rare conjunction this weekend – CNET

Published

on

By

How to see Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in rare conjunction this weekend – CNET_5ffb826727c62.jpeg
3909

The two largest worlds and the smallest planet in the solar system make an appearance this weekend.


NASA

A trio of planets make an appearance at dusk this weekend when Jupiter and Saturn, still chilling together at the after-party from last month’s rare Great Conjunction, will be joined just above the western to southwestern horizon by the more flighty planet Mercury. The planetary trio is a rare sight that can be witnessed with the naked eye just after sunset over the next several days, though Saturday evening offered perhaps the best opportunity to see the three worlds bunched together. 

Astronomy magazine reports that the planets will all be visible within an area about 2.3 degrees across that evening (that’s about the width of your pinky and ring finger together when they’re held away from your body at arm’s length). Mercury will be the lowest of the three in the sky, Jupiter will be the brightest and Saturn will be the dimmest.

Binoculars might help you get a better view, while even a cheap backyard telescope can offer a chance to glimpse some of the larger moons of Jupiter. This might be a good thing to try when Mercury and Saturn have disappeared below the horizon and it’s a little darker out.

To be sure to catch the entire trio, the key is to get outside right after the sun sets as Mercury and Saturn will be quick to dip below the horizon within an hour. While the planets may be closest Saturday, they will continue to congregate while shifting around over the next several nights, so you have a few shots at catching them all like a kind of cosmic game of Pokemon.

As always, if the amateur astrophotographers among you grab any great images of the celestial gathering, please share them with me on Twitter @EricCMack.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.

Continue Reading

Science

NASA’s Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System | TheHill

Published

on

By

NASA’s Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System | TheHill_5ffb8260e66f4.jpeg

Almost unnoticed, tucked into the 2021 fiscal NASA funding section of the recently passed omnibus spending bill, is a provision that would seem to liberate the upcoming Europa Clipper mission from the Space Launch System (SLS). 

According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved. Otherwise, NASA is free to search for commercial alternatives to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter’s ice-shrouded moon.

Europa Clipper is slated to go into orbit around Jupiter and make multiple flyby maneuvers near Europa, an icy world that many scientists believe has a warm ocean under the ice layer. Life may exist in that ocean, the confirmation of which would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of this or any other century.

The Europa Clipper being mandated to fly on an SLS to begin with was the result of an unseemly side of congressional budget politics. The space probe was championed by former Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonTexas Republicans sound post-2020 alarm bells 2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump’s NASA moon program Bottom line MORE (R-Texas), who at the time was the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. In order to get support for the Europa Clipper, Culberson added the SLS mandate, which garnered support from Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublican infighting on election intensifies Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Bottom line MORE ( R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shelby’s state contains a number of aerospace contractors involved in developing the SLS.

Ironically, Culberson lost his seat in 2018, in part, because his opponent, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), accused him of being more concerned with space missions than local issues, such as flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey. Nevertheless, the Europa Clipper continued without its key champion in Congress.

As Ars Technica points out, launching the Europa Clipper on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy saves the mission $1.5 billion. An advantage of using the SLS has been that it allows for a direct path to Jupiter without the time-consuming planetary flyby maneuvers that previous missions to the outer planets have required. The Falcon Heavy alone would not be able to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter space directly, though it might be able to if equipped with a powerful Centaur kick stage.

Both the economics and physics of getting to Europa change if SpaceX’s Starship, currently under development in Boca Chica, Texas, becomes available to launch the Europa Clipper in the mid-2020s. The Starship is meant to fulfill SpaceX’s CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskWill Axiom Space provide a commercial space station replacement for NASA’s ISS? World’s richest people added .8T to their combined wealth in 2020 Trump ends Obama’s 12-year run as most admired man: Gallup MORE’s dreams of settling Mars. But the massive reusable rocket would be available for other things, presumably including sending probes to the outer planets.

The massive cost savings by using a commercial launcher for the Europa Clipper creates other possibilities. The Europa Lander could be placed back on. A mission to Saturn’s frozen world Enceladus may also be greenlit.

The SLS is the result of a Faustian bargain struck between NASA and Congress in 2010. Congress was enraged by then-President Obama’s cancellation of the Bush-era Constellation deep space exploration program. According to then-NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, NASA agreed to the SLS in return for Congress supporting the Commercial Crew program that recently came to fruition with the launch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

The SLS has since been a lead weight on America’s space ambitions. The SLS slated to launch the Artemis 1 uncrewed mission around the moon is currently stuck in a ground-based “green run” series of tests. The SLS is currently using up a great deal of the money allocated to NASA’s Artemis program. The first flight is scheduled for November 2021 at the earliest.

In the meantime, SpaceX has been flying prototypes of the Starship, albeit only in the atmosphere and with occasionally explosive results. NASA is officially disdainful of the idea of replacing the SLS with the Starship. However, a version of the SpaceX massive rocket ship is in the running as a lunar lander for Artemis. It would not be too great a leap to cut out the SLS entirely and go directly with the Starship, if it were not for congressional budget politics.

And that, as Shakespeare would say, is the rub.

Mark Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has published a political study of space exploration entitled Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? as well as The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.  He is published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, the LA Times, and the Washington Post, among other venues.

Continue Reading

Trending